Memorandum of Conversation, by the Special Assistant (Xanthaky) to the Ambassador in Portugal (MacVeagh)1


Last night Don Juan, the Spanish Pretender, gave me the following account of his conversation with the Pope on March 22. The Pretender said that in order to avoid the interview degenerating into an exchange of platitudes, he almost immediately told His Holiness that he is concerned with the support which the Franco regime is receiving from the Spanish clergy. (Note: See Page 3—No. 2 London’s despatch 2517—May 23.2) At the same time, he solicited the [Page 1568] Pope’s good offices not only in correcting that situation but also in the elimination of Franco. (From Don Juan’s recitation of the incident, it is clear to me that he in effect put the Pope “on the spot”.) The Holy Father replied to Don Juan that he is against dictatorships in any form, and that he is unhappy about the situation in Spain. He said, however, that Don Juan must realize that it is not the function of the Pope to interfere in the internal political affairs of any country and particularly Spain where the Church flourishes and indeed receives great protection. According to Don Juan, the Pope then remarked that Franco’s tenure is undesirable and probably transitory and added that if he, Don Juan, could obtain the definite assurance of the United States, Great Britain, and France that they would actively support him politically and economically and if he should also have, at the same time, the support of the Spanish working classes, he, the Pope, might then consider giving thought to the possibility of, in some manner, making an approach to Franco in the sense desired. This sounds like a highly “diplomatic” statement, and it would seem clear that the Pope did not intend to give Don Juan the impression that he could count on the Vatican’s active support under present conditions, but the Pretender remarked to me that it was more than he actually expected from His Holiness, and that it led to his going on to explain to the latter the existing working arrangement between the Monarchists and Spanish labor as represented by the U.G.T. and C.N.T.

Don Juan emphasized to me that any statements made in his name to the effect that the Pope had told him that he is “disposed or resolved to dictate to Franco that he should retire in favor of a group of generals acceptable to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France” (see London’s despatch No. 2517, May 23, 1950) were untrue and that in making such assertions his well-meaning representatives have probably been carried away by their enthusiasm for his cause and hatred of Franco. He also stated that in Rome he had been informed by important officials of the Holy See that under no circumstances will the Vatican sign a concordat with Spain as long as Franco remains in power.

Don Juan said that he and his supporters feel that they cannot allow to go unrefuted the statement contained in Mr. Acheson’s letter to Senator Connally of January 18, 1950, to the effect that there is no sign of an alternative to the present government in Spain. He said that it was for this reason that they decided to send Vejarano and Trifon Gomez to London during the recent conference of Foreign Ministers. They wished, he said, to acquaint Mr. Acheson with the willingness and ability of the Socialists and Monarchists to establish [Page 1569] an interim regime in the event of Franco’s disappearance from the picture, and he stressed that he and his supporters believe that this combination of forces, together with the Pope’s distaste for Franco, should prove a strong substitute for the present government, especially if it can count on the political and economic support of the Western Powers.

Concerning Vejarano, Don Juan said he realized that the Duke of Alba, for personal reasons, and other important Monarchists within Spain, dislike Vejarano thoroughly. However, since there are no capable Monarchists in Spain willing to do the type of work Vejarano is undertaking, which would automatically preclude their return to the country if they left it, he has to use the tools at his disposal. Don Juan also disclosed that he now has some differences with the Monarchists in Spain because of their feeling that he is making undue concessions to the Socialists, especially in connection with his agreement to an eventual plebiscite on the Monarchical question. He said, however, that he believes that this will in due course be smoothed over and that they will see his point of view. He stated further that under no circumstances would he have anything to do with a military or revolutionary movement against Franco. Don Juan added that his entry into Spain would have to be by peaceful and evolutionary methods. He showed me a personal telegram of greeting which he received on June 24, his onomastic Saint’s Day (St. John), from Franco reading as follows:

“Haciendo votos por la felicidad personal de vuestra alteza le saludo con afecto. Generalissimo Franco Jefe del Estado Espanol”

He said that this was the only message he has received from Franco since the latter’s visit to Lisbon last October.

From all the above, it is apparent that both Vejarano and Trifon Gomez in their London and Paris conversations exaggerated the extent to which the Pope is willing to lend his support to Don Juan, and it would also appear that Vejarano took liberties with the truth on reporting to the Pretender that he had talked to the Secretary last May in London. On the other hand, the Pretender is personally fond of Vejarano and appeared inclined to defend him rather than indicate any disillusion as to his reliability.

Don Juan also informed me that he has received confirmation that Spain has been obtaining wheat from the U.S.S.R. in exchange for mercury and that this Russian grain is being trans-shipped at French and Syrian ports. The Pretender was not critical of Franco for this transaction stating that since the latter could not obtain much-needed wheat from western sources he is obliged to seek it where available.

  1. The source text was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 474, from Lisbon, June 29, not printed, in which Ambassador MacVeagh stated that he had authorized Xanthaky, who enjoyed a personal standing with Don Juan, to seek an answer to the Department of State’s queries “(1) as to whether or not Vejarano’s recent démarches in London were made on Don Juan’s instructions, and (2) as to whether his overstatements regarding the Pope’s willingness to intercede reflect Don Juan’s opinions or only his own.” (752.00/6–2950)
  2. Not printed.